My Zen Retreats Are the Best (and Here’s Why)

MtBaldyNow before I say what I want to say here, I want to point out that I specifically designed my Zen retreats to be the best possible retreats they could be. I didn’t even start running retreats of my own at all until I was able to run ones that wouldn’t be compromised into being inferior ones. So of course I think mine are the best. That doesn’t mean every other retreat is bad. It just means mine are the best. Here’s why.

We’re doing a Zen and Yoga Retreat April 24-26 at Mt. Baldy Zen Center. Now if you sign up for a “Zen and Yoga” or “Zen and Calligraphy” or “Zen and Skeeball” or “Zen and whatever” retreat at some places I’ve spent time at, what you’ll get will be a lot of yoga or calligraphy or skeeball and a small amount of (almost always optional) Zen. Meditation centers generally know that actual meditation is a tough sell and often minimize or very nearly eliminate actual sitting from the schedule. The idea of such retreats is to get you in the door with the hope that maybe 10% of those who sign up might come back some day.

On the other hand, some Zen places go to the opposite extreme. They expect even first-timers to sit for as much as ten hours a day and will, quite literally, punish you if you so much as scratch or sniffle. I know they like to tell you it’s not punishment, but let’s be real. You get hit with a big wooden stick when you break the most minor rules. Where I come from we call that punishment.

What we offer is a genuine Zen retreat with the yoga added to soften the impact of so much sitting. We offer three and a half hours of seated meditation on the longest of the three days along with one hour of yoga (split into two sessions) and two hours of lecture/discussion. Three meals are eaten in silence as a way of continuing the meditation during the meals. There is also a Zen style work period of 40 minutes, which is yet another opportunity to practice meditation with movement. During the sitting periods, I also offer personal consultations with all participants (dokusan).

This is the perfect amount of sitting for both beginners and long-time practitioners. It’s not too much for beginners to deal with and it’s not so little that people who’ve practiced for a while feel cheated. And if they do, we offer free time in the schedule when you can go to the zendo and sit some more if you want. I used to do that when I attended Gudo Nishijima’s retreats, which had a similar schedule. You can also skip yoga and lectures to sit if you feel so inclined.

Three and a half hours of staring at a wall can seem like a lot to someone who has never done zazen at all. In fact, it is a lot. That’s the idea. One of the most effective ways to do Zen practice is to do it longer than you imagine you can endure. If ten minutes is your limit, do fifteen. If you’re too angry or too stressed or your mind is racing too much for you to do 40 minutes, then do 45 minutes.

That last bit, the part of your practice in which you feel like you can’t possibly go on any longer, is the best. It’s like exercising. You have to push a little. You’re bothered by your overactive mind because you give in too quickly to whatever it demands of you. This is true for me and for everybody else too. When you learn in practice not to give in so easily, you train the mind to be still when it doesn’t get exactly what it imagine it wants. By not scratching every single itch that comes up and not shifting around each time you feel like it, you learn something incredibly valuable. You learn how to be fine with the things that come up even when you don’t really like them. And you also learn how to enjoy the things you like that much more because you can stay with what’s actually going on.

We’re also very liberal at our retreats. If you have to miss part of it, nobody’s going to bug you about it. If you’d rather go hike up the mountain while the rest of us are sitting, we’re not gonna tell you not to. We may wonder why you signed up for a Zen retreat instead of just driving up Mt. Baldy and hiking on your own, but that’s about it.

Retreats are a great way to deepen your practice. You can get into it in ways that you just can’t at home by yourself or at a weekly sitting where you just do one or two rounds. There really is no substitute.

Anyhow, that’s my two-cents. The link to sign up is below. See you there!

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

April 3, 2015 Pomona, CA Open Door 2 Yoga 6 pm 163 W 2nd St, Pomona, California 91766

April 24-26, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY ZEN & YOGA RETREAT

May 16-17, 2015 Nashville, TN 2-DAY RETREAT AT NASHVILLE ZEN CENTER

July 8-12, 2015 Vancouver, BC Canada 5-DAY RETREAT at HOLLYHOCK RETREAT CENTER

August 14-16, 2015 Munich, Germany 3 DAY ZEN RETREAT

August 19, 2015 Munich, Germany LECTURE

August 24-29, 2015 Felsentor, Switzerland 5-DAY RETREAT AT STIFTUNG FELSENTOR 

August 30-September 4, 2015 Holzkirchen, Germany 5-DAY RETREAT AT BENEDIKTUSHOF MONASTERY

September 10-13, 2015 Finland 4-DAY RETREAT

ONGOING EVENTS

Every Monday at 8pm I lead zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. All are welcome!

Every Saturday at 9:30 am I lead zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. All are welcome!

Registration is now open for our 3-day Zen & Yoga Retreat at Mt. Baldy Zen Center April 24-26, 2015. CLICK HERE for more info!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website, dsla.info

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170 Responses

Page 2 of 2
  1. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara April 3, 2015 at 7:03 am |

    Ishinashini,
    The empty hand grasps first base:
    A checking question?

  2. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara April 3, 2015 at 7:38 am |

    Ordinary mind –
    Trance, dubstep, techno, punk
    – Lets the bed bugs bite

    1. Fred
      Fred April 3, 2015 at 8:18 am |

      “Ishinashini,
      The empty hand grasps first base:
      A checking question?”

      Who’s on first base. Who’s checking who? Show me this who.

      1. Fred
        Fred April 3, 2015 at 8:25 am |
    2. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara April 3, 2015 at 8:46 am |

      Very simple, grasshopper.

      First Base: a nipple-capped baldy mountain. Fourth base: the bearded mound of venus. Who’s on it? Why, the will-less hand of Sasaki-sama. Who’s checking who? Trance is checking trance’s liberation. Show me this who! Sure. ..

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=I_FRwkR_91o

      1. Shinchan Ohara
        Shinchan Ohara April 3, 2015 at 8:54 am |
  3. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 3, 2015 at 9:59 am |

    Shinchan, that’s fascinating about the gypsy.

    What do you think about my hypothesis, in “Fuxi’s Poem”, that the koans were the expression of relationships through metaphor that had the simultaneous advantage of possibly inducing trance through transderivational search? I’m not saying they were contrived, I’m only saying the advantage of expressing experience in terms familiar to the listener but without the usual meaning became understood in China, that like in Casteneda’s Don Juan books the masters taught by shoving people suddenly into– their own space, the experience of where that is the vestibular and proprioceptive senses as well as the sense of gravity.

    Erickson is exactly with you, the induction of trance is by consent of the inductee. Erickson induced trance in himself, because of the pain he had from early polio, but also because he felt it heightened his senses for his work with his patients.

    Zen teachers don’t speak of trance, except in pejorative terms, and it’s unfortunate that you encountered a teacher who was so intent on making induction happen, an unnatural act by your description. Clearly Erickson could remain in trance and appear absolutely normal and not passive. Healers all over the world do this. When the healer is right in front of you, in robes and in trance, would you know it? I will suggest, you might not. If that healer denies trance, they are talking about some opiated state perhaps, but not Erickson’s own.

    The movement of breath becomes the suggestor, the inducer, at some point in relaxed attention. If you keep climbing when you reach the top of the mountain, ishinashini; is the suggestion of the unconscious that emerges in the movement of breath at that point subject to my beliefs? You bet.

    Are Brad & I on the same page?

    Some points from the latest “That’s So Zen”:

    ‘When I compare my experience training in Japanese Zen monasteries to the norm in Western practice settings, I can’t help but think that the two cultures are doing the opposite things, or at least, the same things in the opposite order. The following are just a few examples, and I acknowledge they are kind of (okay, very) simplistic and over-generalizing:

    In the West, people practice for several years before ordaining.

    In Japan, people ordain and then train for several years before usually moving into a temple where they will live and practice the rest of their lives.

    In the West, transmission is viewed as the marker of a certain level of maturity or understanding.

    In Japan, transmission is usually viewed as the beginning of a lifelong process. Sometimes people will get transmission before they even start training. Receiving transmission does not necessarily mean someone is qualified to teach.’

    Now I know that Nishijima intended for Brad to teach. I know this, because when I commented on Nishijima’s blog one time, he asked me to help Brad. I was left with the impression that Gudo mistook me for someone with qualifications and position, so I told him I had none, and that was the end of the conversation.

    What does this have to do with Brad and me being on the same page?- I like to pogo, sometimes.

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara April 4, 2015 at 11:34 am |

      “Shinchan, … What do you think about my hypothesis, in “Fuxi’s Poem”, that the koans were the expression of relationships through metaphor that had the simultaneous advantage of possibly inducing trance through transderivational search?”

      I’ll reply below, Mark. Would’ve been sooner, but real life intervened.

  4. Harlan
    Harlan April 3, 2015 at 10:46 am |

    “Getting lost in a train of thought, or absorbed in an athletic endeavor, he described as examples of trance.”

    Or looking at a picture of Father Nod’s naked girls in a swimming pool.. That post did generate over 500 comments. I wouldn’t be surprised if trance was nothing more than some kind of wordless sexual fascination sublimated into something else. Erickson’s technique seemed pretty sexual to me with the light trailing of his middle finger beneath someone’s hand. (The “hypnotic touch” then begins when I let loose. The letting loose becomes transformed from a firm grip into a gentle touch by the thumb, a lingering drawing away of the little finger, a faint brushing of the subject’s hand with the middle finger – just enough vague sensation to attract the attention. As the subject gives attention to the touch of your thumb, you shift to a touch with your little finger. As your subject’s attention follows that, you shift to a touch with your middle finger and then again to the thumb.) Ahem. But I don’t have a dog in this fight. It could be as Brad says or it could be as Mark says. It just can’t be both unless of course it’s two people talking about the same thing using different terms. I’m guessing it’s not though.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFxxNj2OZDw

  5. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon April 3, 2015 at 11:25 am |

    “Trancing only works on squids.” – Jack Deth

  6. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 3, 2015 at 11:37 am |

    Most Zen teachers are more comfortable with negation, with saying what isn’t, than with saying something positive and substantive about what is.

    That didn’t work for me. I would suggest to you that when Brad speaks positively and substantively about the heart of the practice of zazen, we are likely to be on the same page.

    1. The Grand Canyon
      The Grand Canyon April 3, 2015 at 2:42 pm |

      On the same page? I’m not even sure if you two are in the same library.

  7. Harlan
    Harlan April 3, 2015 at 12:08 pm |

    Hi Mark. Yes I agree with you on that. I never have doubted your sincerity. In that you and Brad seem very similar. I don’t know about the other stuff..

    But I once told a Zen teacher that my early attempts at Zazen kept resulting in trance states when I tried not to think. I said I didn’t think I was doing it right.
    All he said was, “Why do you think that?”

    1. Alan Sailer
      Alan Sailer April 3, 2015 at 1:00 pm |

      As far as my personal experience goes “Why do you think that?” is the stock reply to “I don’t think I’m doing this right”.

      I think it’s a great reply.

      I’d say that “I don’t think I’m doing this right” is a veiled plea for help. It certainly was in my case…

      Cheers.

      1. Fred
        Fred April 3, 2015 at 4:20 pm |

        “that like in Casteneda’s Don Juan books the masters taught by shoving people suddenly into— their own space, the experience of where that is the vestibular and proprioceptive senses as well as the sense of gravity.”

        Don Juan shoved Carlos into the Nagual

        1. Fred
          Fred April 3, 2015 at 4:39 pm |

          Fuxi’s poem is not about trance; it’s about understanding metaphor in the development of stages in enlightenment.

          http://thedaobums.com/topic/36540-fuxis-poem/

          1. Fred
            Fred April 3, 2015 at 4:48 pm |

            “But I once told a Zen teacher that my early attempts at Zazen kept resulting in trance states when I tried not to think. I said I didn’t think I was doing it right.
            All he said was, “Why do you think that?”

            What else could he say. The trance is just another ego state. He can’t give you a substitution for what is to happen in just sitting.

  8. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 3, 2015 at 5:27 pm |

    “To bring it to the domain of bodywork is missing the point entirely.”- comment on my diatribe on Fuxi’s poem, from The Tao Bums website.

    “Don Juan shoved Carlos into the Nagual”- actually, the Chinese masters usually smacked rather than shoved- the space they were looking to introduce was the space the smackee already occupied- all that was needed was the interruption of a handshake, as it were, to induce the state of mind to experience the sense.

    When we let go of our minds and cast aside our views and understandings the Way will be actualized. One sage clarified True Mind (Reality) when he saw peach blossoms and another realized the Way when he heard the sound of tile hitting a bamboo. They attained the way through their bodies. Therefore, when we completely cast aside our thoughts and views and practice shikantaza, we will become intimate with the way… This is why I encourage you to practice zazen wholeheartedly.

    (“Shobogenzo-zuimonki”, sayings recorded by Koun Ejo, translated by Shohaku Okumura, 2-26, pg 107-108, ©2004 Sotoshu Shumucho)

    Consciousness born of the senses, particularly proprioception in connection with equalibrioception, is difficult to grasp, like trying to climb a tree whose branches are covered in oil; it’s easy, on the tips of the hundred blades of grass; it’s not hard, not easy, just eating when hungry and sleeping when tired.

    What were those trance states like?

    1. Fred
      Fred April 3, 2015 at 6:01 pm |

      “What were those trance states like?”
      Like a lifetime passing by.

      http://terebess.hu/zen/fuxi.html

  9. Fred
    Fred April 3, 2015 at 6:04 pm |

    空手把鉏頭 Empty-handed, I hold a hoe.
    步行騎水牛 Walking on foot, I ride a buffalo.
    人在橋上過 Passing over a bridge, I see
    橋流水不流 The bridge flow, but not the water.

    有 物先天地 Something there is, prior to heaven and earth,
    無形本寂寥 Without form, without sound, all alone by itself.
    能 爲萬象主 It has the power to control all the changing things;
    不逐四時凋 Yet it changes not in the course of the four seasons.

  10. mb
    mb April 3, 2015 at 7:47 pm |

    A few random thoughts about the use of the concept “trance” as relating to meditation:

    1) TM-style meditation and any silent repetition of a mantra leads to trance.
    I have a friend who was initiated into TM a long time ago, he never established a habit but at random times during his life he sits down to meditate once in a while. And every time he does that, I get reports about how “great” the meditation experience was because it always leads him to “go somewhere else”, another virtual world, unfamiliar beautiful landscapes, etc. It seems to provide a sense of subtle fascination and “satisfaction”.

    2) Even Buddhism accounts for “trance” (absorbtive) states: the jhanas. Often overlooked. And the recommendation is always to understand them for what they are, certainly not an “end” but a landmark that might or might not be experienced through a meditation “career”.

    3) New Age channellers! You know, the ones that act as “mediums” for the wisdom of disembodied aliens that sell all those books and keep the New Age types “fed” with their favorite food, an alternative cosmology that appeals to them.

    4) Witch doctors, shamans, pagans, near-death experiences, astral travel, lucid dreaming, sex orgies…all partake of aspects of trance.

    5) Cult experiences, mind control, brainwashing, hypnosis – trance.

    At my yoga studio, they have a class one night a week called “Trance Dance”, where people get to lose themselves free-flowing dance movements. Not sure what this has to do with yoga, but it sure is popular.

    So, to me “trance” has more to do with altered states than with anything else.

    Admittedly, I haven’t delved in Milton Erickson’s specific definition of the concept very much. Maybe his definition differs from the conventional definitions usually associated with the word.

    Mark speaks of some kind of “proprioceptive-vestibular trance” as relating directly to zazen. Maybe I’ll get it one day…maybe not…

  11. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 3, 2015 at 9:17 pm |

    Thanks, mb. The whole notion of a “Way” is difficult in Soto, I think; goes back to Dogen’s question about why, if everyone has Buddha nature, is there practice.

    Jesus spoke of entering the kingdom of heaven, same idea, especially if you consider his remark that the kingdom of heaven was within.

    Interesting stuff in the longer version of the Alexander video Shinchan O linked to, the one with Hurt and Kosminsky:

    “How do you do it. …In the Alexander technique, we don’t do anything; we think. And because of the way our brains are constructed, when we think an image in conjunction with our own anatomy, we can effect change in our musculature, physical change, and in our movement.”

    (at about 13.00)

    How to practice giving up volition, in speech, in the body, in mind. Obviously, it can’t be done through the exercise of volition. Is it possible to practice picking up on what the muscles and ligaments are telling us about where they are, relative to where we are? Yeah, kind of. Is it possible to practice picking up on the motion of heave, sway, and roll where awareness takes place? Yeah, kind of. Gravity anywhere? Yeah, sure- kind of.

    “…the addition of a feather will be felt for its weight, and… a fly cannot alight on (the body) without setting it in motion.”

    (“Cheng Man-Ch’ing’s T’ai-Chi Ch’uan”, Cheng Man-Ch’ing, © Juliana T. Cheng, North Atlantic Books pg 14)

    Ok- kind of.

    “When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point.”

    (“Genjo Koan” by Eihei Dogen, trans. by Aitken and Tanahashi)

    “When you find your place where you are”- that, according to Mohr and Blanke, involves the occular, vestibular, and proprioceptive senses in particular- do you find it to be so, and if you open to the real time experience of these senses as well as the mind, is there a happiness apart from the pleasures of the senses, apart from unskilled states of mind?

  12. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 3, 2015 at 9:20 pm |

    You are going to hypnose you, you are getting very seeply…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8jGVyenqqY

  13. Andy
    Andy April 4, 2015 at 1:49 am |

    anon108 wrote: “You’re proper nuts, mate. Please do write a book.”

    I find play a very sane way to channel the language wilds, Malcolm.

    Your two sentences above channeled two voices, registers, the choice heteroglossia widening the ambiguity and expressive richness of your concise comment; that those two voices arrive as conventional appropriations narrows, hones, the ambiguity and expressive richness.

    The first sentence channels a more working class British demotic, using the type of (estuary English) phrasing I would hear from teenagers in the state school classrooms I taught in or from youngish lads or gals often seen clocking out of a factory or office. The second sentence’s ‘Please do’ channels the more austere, didactic vernacular of their ‘well-to-do’ bourgeois teacher. ‘Book’ tends the comment’s send-off towards a more prosaic thump than ‘novel’ would.

    So, that leaves your words open to being read as expressing annoyed sarcasm or as something more friendly. The brevity of the comment allows for few other cues to signal which way an addressee should take it.

    My point is that, whatever your intentions when commenting, such conventional appropriations of language in their heteroglossic, ventrilloquising, and (quietly) crazy-making ambiguity are examples of the very thing you were responding to, but with the straight-jacket of well-heeled norms, as this post is swamped with.

    The more I look at it, all language is right nutty.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 April 4, 2015 at 3:07 am |

      (Intention: entirely friendly.)

      1. anon 108
        anon 108 April 4, 2015 at 3:19 am |

        …supportive, approving, encouraging.

        [Content: Heteroglossic. Deffo.]

        1. Zafu
          Zafu April 4, 2015 at 8:17 am |

          How come when Andy calls you a low class adolescent bi-otch you are supportive of him, but when I make similar observations you get, well, kinda whiney. Is it because the lower classes are easily seduced by language?

          1. Andy
            Andy April 5, 2015 at 2:21 am |

            Zafu wrote: “How come when Andy calls you a low class adolescent bi-otch you are supportive of him, but when I make similar observations you get, well, kinda whiney. Is it because the lower classes are easily seduced by language?

            I didn’t ‘call’ anon108 anything of the sort, Zafu. I didn’t know whether anon108’s short response indicated irritation or friendliness, so I dwelt upon the opportunity to present a short analysis of some key registers that his words played with and how such stylistic choices – consciously or unconsciously – compare and contrast with the self-conscious, showy play I sometimes indulge in. And I used the loosely connected theme of how mental states are represented/induced by our stylistic choices as a thematic focus, considering cognates such as losing one’s mind and being nuts were connected (starting with Mark) to the notion of the wildness of my own words/mental states.

            As for being supported, anon108 was clarifying his intentions before I posted my little linguistic exploration of his words. I would have had little problem if anon108 or anyone else was irritated by either of my posts, both of which contain potentially ‘crazy-making’ or just plainly annoying constructions, intentional or otherwise.

            But really, Zafu, that’s some blinked out straw man stuff you’ve conjured up from my post there. If I used the American derived slang word ‘biotch’, and you pointed that out, does that mean you’d be accusing me of being a Yank prole?

            Give over, luv!

    2. Fight Club Wild Andy Jr.
      Fight Club Wild Andy Jr. April 4, 2015 at 4:20 am |

      A mormenang diphthong cutlass collection, indeed.

  14. Andy
    Andy April 4, 2015 at 4:35 am |

    Thanks for the friendly support and encouragement, Anon108. Can’t get enough!

  15. Michel
    Michel April 4, 2015 at 6:38 am |

    “Estuary! I live on a houseboat on an estuary; which is handy for my work with the Thames Water Authority. But I know that you would have found it insanitry…”

  16. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 4, 2015 at 10:29 am |

    The playground provides the isolation of the vestibular sense:

    http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-18136/7-fun-ways-to-teach-your-kids-mindfulness.html

    1. Mark Foote
      Mark Foote April 4, 2015 at 10:47 am |

      I posted the article on my Facebook page, with this comment:

      ‘The exercises sound great for isolating the sense of proprioception (among other senses); missing is an exercise to isolate the vestibular sense. Blanke and Mohr hypothesize that what we identify with as our self is really a function of the vestibular, proprioceptive, and occular senses; they arrive at this hypothesis by noting that if you see yourself across the room (don’t laugh, it’s a particular kind of out-of-body experience), one of these senses is challenged. When we can relate to consciousness that originates in our senses, mindfulness works like this:

      “When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point.”‘

  17. Harlan
    Harlan April 4, 2015 at 10:56 am |

    “In my own practice I have found that the mind does become far less noisy with continued work. I remember a moment when I was walking home from work one day in Tokyo and I suddenly realized I wasn’t thinking.”

    When you think “I’m not thinking”, does that still qualify as not thinking?

    1. Fred
      Fred April 4, 2015 at 2:06 pm |

      Thinking non-thinking is a type of thinking in the organism, because there is no
      “I” that is thinking it. You could say that a type of awareness is observing all that is, and the sense of this awareness is not confined to an internal locus.

      A you doesn’t think ” I’m not thinking “. A you registers that there was an interval
      where that you had dropped away.

      1. Fred
        Fred April 4, 2015 at 2:15 pm |

        Zen masters probably don’t like the word trance because it’s just another ego state, and the conversation gets sidetracked into reinforcing duality.

        The fundamental point doesn’t get actualized.

  18. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon April 4, 2015 at 4:33 pm |
    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles April 4, 2015 at 5:43 pm |

      Link to the entire Edward Sapir book mentioned toward the end of the interview:

      http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12629/12629-h/12629-h.htm

  19. Fred
    Fred April 4, 2015 at 5:59 pm |

    Wikipedia:

    “The principle of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects the ways in which its respective speakers conceptualize their world, i.e. their world view, or otherwise influences their cognitive processes. Popularly known as the Sapir—Whorf hypothesis, or Whorfianism, the principle is often defined to include two versions. The strong version says that language determines thought, and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories”

  20. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara April 4, 2015 at 7:21 pm |

    LONG COMMENT ALERT: RE: trance, koans, Mark Foote’s Fuxi essay. [and totally off the more pertinent topic of Warner’s Original and Best Zen-ins ( tm ) ]

    Hi Mark,

    The definition of ‘trance’ that you give appears workable: “… a state in which volition in activity is surrendered…”. IMHO, such a definition is broad enough to cover everything called trance. Examples: shamanic frenzy; hypnosis; more mundane trances – such as when I notice I’ve just driven 30 miles of winding roads, but can’t remember any of it because I was having a sexual fantasy the whole time.

    As for your suggestion that, “koans … had the simultaneous advantage of possibly inducing trance through transderivational search”… hmmm, maybe, kind of.

    I wrote yesterday that, (1), classic koan cases were an opportunity for a Ch’an disciple to prove he couldn’t be trance-induced by the Master – and therefore, that he had transcended infantile dependency needs, attachment to theories, and so on. I also wrote that, (2), the absence or presence of trance is a non-issue in Zen. Those two statements might seem to oppose one another. They don’t and here’s how.

    The big issue in Zen practice isn’t whether or not “volition in activity is surrendered”, but rather to whom (or to what) volition is surrendered, if at all. That distinction may be crucial. Looking at the three common examples of trance I mentioned above, in each case the ‘will’ that initiates action is no longer linked to the ordinary ego-mind. But in each case it’s surrendered to a different victor. From a shaman’s perspective, his will has been replaced by an animal spirit (a scientist might substitute ‘animal spirit’ with ‘unconscious mind’ or ‘innate releasing mechanism’). In induced Eriksonian hypnosis, the subject’s will is partially surrendered to the hypnotist’s. In my driving-while-fantasizing example, two different parts of ‘my mind’ are engaged in two different activities: something is doing the complex ocular-proprioceptive-motor activity of driving, and something else is imagining fellatio. Only the sex-imagining part of me is conscious at that time – the driving is unconscious (or at the very least, only the sex-imagining part is laying down memories).

    This driving-while-imagining trance is similar to sleepwalking, or to an alcoholic’s blackout – in the sense that complex motoric or verbal behaviour occurs, in the absence of awareness. Many people get spooked when they find they’ve been in such a trance: it messes with their sense of self, if they identify as a discursive ego embedded in a stream of declarative memory. Mumonkan Koan 35 is about this kind of stuff – “Sei, the Chinese girl, who was separated from her soul. Which was the real Sei?”

    Thanks for reading thus far. Now: Zazen.

    Mark, I believe we both agree that sitting meditation can involve bodily activity that isn’t mediated by the ego: that’s to say, balance, movement, respiration, and so on occur in zazen (and can be in awareness), but without the common experience that such balance, movement or breath are effects, of which a decision by the ego/will is the cause. In that sense, we could say that sitting meditation meets your definition of trance: control of activity has been surrendered by the ordinary thinking mind. However, if zazen is trance, it must be a very specific kind of trance. A kind of trance that broadens awareness instead of limiting it. A kind of trance that prevents suggestibility instead of increasing it. A trance that allows appropriate action in any situation: appropriate action that can’t be thwarted by worries about rank or authority, right or wrong, karma or conformity. Otherwise, how could it claim to even permit liberation or illumination?

    So, I can’t agree that the goal of koans is to initiate a ‘transderivational search’, although it could be a side-effect. Such a search limits awareness, and hinders apropriate, unpremeditated action in the real world, in the concrete moment-by-moment situation in which one finds oneself. So: zazen as trance – I agree, kind of; koans as Eriksonian induction techniques: I disagree.

    I thought of some things I’ve read that might have similarities or relevance in general to your interpretation of Fuxi. I’ll post them as replies below.

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara April 4, 2015 at 7:59 pm |

      This book includes the text of an interview between Carl Jung and Shin’ichi Hisamatsu (a philosopher who did rinzai zen), on the topic ‘What is the Self?’ I can’t quote exactly, because I’ve lost my copy, and Google Books doesn’t have a preview of it. Basically, they agree that in (vijnanavada) Buddhism, like in Jung’s depth psychology, there are deeper layers of mind beyond ego-consciousness, with each deeper layer being closer to the ‘true self’, and the ‘true self’ being something cosmic, un-individuated, and kindofa God-shaped.

      Relevant, I think, because Jung’s collective unconscious (equated with the buddhist store consciousness in that discussion), is often thought to be more ‘bodily’ than the thinking mind. So in a sense, the embodied awareness of meditation can be thought of as closer to the ‘real self’ than than the discursive ego. So, in those terms, it might be more useful to think of meditation as the ‘true’ self taking back volition in action from the parasitic thinking mind, rather than the ‘surrender of volition’ by the self

    2. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara April 4, 2015 at 8:40 pm |

      Last thing. Mark, have you come across the work of Thomas Hanna?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cWnoZqJZ8g&index=1&list=PL_5bCF4VTBLaAPCamwnMjkyC7Mh3FEQNw

      His theory might complement yours. He placed a lot of importance for posture on mobility and extension in the pelvis, but while your analysis of fuxi looks at deep anatomy and ligaments, he focussed more on tightness in the top muscle layer (rectus abdominis and upper back muscles) due to either the startle reflex or the landau reflex being habitual.

  21. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 4, 2015 at 8:25 pm |

    “A kind of trance that broadens awareness instead of limiting it. A kind of trance that prevents suggestibility instead of increasing it. A trance that allows appropriate action in any situation: appropriate action that can’t be thwarted by worries about rank or authority, right or wrong, karma or conformity.”

    Yes on “A kind of trance that broadens awareness instead of limiting it.” Erickson noted that trance heightens sensory awareness.

    “A kind of trance that prevents suggestibility instead of increasing it”- your incident with the gypsy was fascinating, but a part of “sometimes zazen gets up and walks around”, as near as I can figure, is that I am subject to suggestion from the unconscious or collective conscious. You touch on this in your second comment above. And the hard thing for me to realize is that the suggestion I experience is subject to my belief. If I think that I need to get up and walk around, and I really believe that, most of the time zazen will oblige if I make it by getting up and walking around. Yes, to experience it like that is wacky; might as well exercise the volition, is what I have concluded, and I’m alright with that. And yet sometimes I exercise the volition, and realize I’m not going anywhere. Blessed feeling, when the people on the other side of the wall are apparently conspiring with my collective unconscious to take the reins, and I’m not going anywhere (or I thought I was staying and so long, I must be going).

    “A trance that allows appropriate action in any situation: appropriate action that can’t be thwarted by worries about rank or authority, right or wrong, karma or conformity”- when the people on the other side of the wall get involved, the action is usually timely, even if at the moment it seems out of place (extending the mind of friendliness, of compassion, of sympathetic joy, and of equanimity throughout the four quarters, above and below, kind of people on the other side of the wall). Yet there is also the ishinashini that follows from my belief, belief which is actually equally out of my control, even though I’d all like to think that it was my intentional exercise of logic on top of my experience that delivered my beliefs. And as near as I can understand it, this is what happened with Sasaki; he came to believe that what he did was necessary to him, and it happened.

    Thanks for your careful remarks.

    The relinquishment of volition is experienced, it can’t actually be made to happen; if the student had a choice in the matter, the koan wouldn’t be effective, IMHO. The koan student has already accepted that something is happening outside of logic, and that whatever the teacher does is what needs to happen; the inductee has already given permission for the induction of trance, a trance that heightens awareness of the sense of place and the role of each thing in the freedom of the sense of place, in the actualization of the fundamental point.

  22. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 4, 2015 at 8:33 pm |

    and therein lies the rub (shutup, Fred). The inductee has already given permission for the induction of trance, in the Zen teacher-student relationship; the potential for abuse is there.

    It’s not necessary to enter into a student-teacher relationship where permission is granted to someone else to trigger the trance with heightened sensory awareness at the exact moment that an experience of place actualizing single-pointedness needs to happen. The necessity of breath will do. I’ve been writing since 1975 to explain this to myself.

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara April 4, 2015 at 9:31 pm |

      “The inductee has already given permission for the induction of trance, in the Zen teacher-student relationship; the potential for abuse is there.”

      Yes, you’re right. impeccably reasoned. I never thought of it that way… but I’d suggest that the implicit consent to trance only applies in koan-oriented branches of Zen? No?

    2. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara April 4, 2015 at 9:44 pm |

      Mark F: “Clearly Erickson could remain in trance and appear absolutely normal and not passive. Healers all over the world do this. When the healer is right in front of you, in robes and in trance, would you know it?”

      When the tiger is right in front you, among the bamboos, would you know it?

      Nature has provided mammals a predator trance and a captured prey trance. Only the prey trance is passive. The predator bites without volition, ishinashini.

      Enlightenment is no trance.

  23. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara April 4, 2015 at 9:09 pm |

    Hmmm! (strokes chin) Hmmm!

    Thanks, Mark. I need to go away and consider this some more. I have some reservations about what you’re saying, but they might resolve themselves.

    I’m actually suspecting that what we’re touching on here may be tied in with the difference between the approaches of Rinzai Zen and Soto Zen. I can associate ‘zazen-as-trance’, or trance induction in a student-teacher relationship more easily with my experience and knowledge of the Rinzai tradition (even then, not completely). I’m struggling to see it applying to what I’ve come across in the Soto lineage.

    Also, the ‘heightened sensory awareness’ of trance, as I know it, is a very one-pointed awareness, highly focussed on the object of fascination, to the exclusion of all else. I can imagine that being similar to a zazen technique which concentrates on the tan t’ien or the breathing. But I’m less convinced that trance is a meaningful way to describe shikantaza as prescribed by Master Dogen.

  24. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 4, 2015 at 11:46 pm |

    Shinchan O, yes, I understand your concerns. Yes, I’m talking about the use of koan in Rinzai Zen; but then again, it turns out most Soto masters have studied the Blue Cliff Record. They just don’t teach from it.

    You know what occurred to me tonight?

    “The inductee has already given permission for the induction of trance, in the Zen teacher-student relationship; the potential for abuse is there.”

    Love is also like this. Howdya like them apples!

        1. Mark Foote
          Mark Foote April 5, 2015 at 10:48 am |

          one more try:

          Malamatiyya home-town

          1. Mark Foote
            Mark Foote April 5, 2015 at 10:49 am |

            dang that WordPress!

  25. Andy
    Andy April 5, 2015 at 2:22 am |

    Zafu wrote: “How come when Andy calls you a low class adolescent bi-otch you are supportive of him, but when I make similar observations you get, well, kinda whiney. Is it because the lower classes are easily seduced by language?

    I didn’t ‘call’ anon108 anything of the sort, Zafu. I didn’t know whether anon108’s short response indicated irritation or friendliness, so I dwelt upon the opportunity to present a short analysis of some key registers that his words played with and how such stylistic choices — consciously or unconsciously — compare and contrast with the self-conscious, showy play I sometimes indulge in. And I used the loosely connected theme of how mental states are represented/induced by our stylistic choices as a thematic focus, considering cognates such as losing one’s mind and being nuts were connected (starting with Mark) to the notion of the wildness of my own words/mental states.

    As for being supported, anon108 was clarifying his intentions before I posted my little linguistic exploration of his words. I would have had little problem if anon108 or anyone else was irritated by either of my posts, both of which contain potentially ‘crazy-making’ or just plainly annoying constructions, intentional or otherwise.

    But really, Zafu, that’s some blinked out straw man stuff you’ve conjured up from my post there. If I used the American derived slang word ‘biotch’, and you pointed that out, does that mean you’d be accusing me of being a Yank prole?

    Give over, luv!

    1. Fight Club Wild Andy Jr.
      Fight Club Wild Andy Jr. April 5, 2015 at 5:35 am |

      Aren’t those key registers subjective?

    2. Zafu
      Zafu April 5, 2015 at 11:00 am |

      Blinked out straw man? Perhaps it would be best if you stuck with low class adolescent literary analysis.

  26. anon 108
    anon 108 April 5, 2015 at 5:34 am |

    Zaf, me ol’ banana – I also thought ‘what is he on about?’ I considered saying so. But not knowing if you was serious or havin a larf, I left your enticing delivery to drift on by (lest I be caught in the slips). Ya get me?

    1. Fred
      Fred April 5, 2015 at 6:57 am |

      Sinchan:

      ” In induced Eriksonian hypnosis, the subject’s will is partially surrendered to the hypnotist’s. In my driving-while-fantasizing example, two different parts of ‘my mind’ are engaged in two different activities: something is doing the complex ocular-proprioceptive-motor activity of driving, and something else is imagining fellatio”

      “Fellatio (also known as fellation,[1] and colloquially as blowjob, BJ, giving head, or sucking off[2]) is an oral sex act involving the use of the mouth or throat, which is performed by a person on the penis of another person or oneself (autofellatio).”

      In a previous post you said that you were a woman, and that you were a lesbian. Do lesbian’s commonly have sexual fantasies about sucking on penises? Or maybe the fantasy was about chicks with dicks?

      1. Fred
        Fred April 5, 2015 at 7:07 am |

        ” So in a sense, the embodied awareness of meditation can be thought of as closer to the ‘real self’ than than the discursive ego. So, in those terms, it might be more useful to think of meditation as the ‘true’ self taking back volition in action from the parasitic thinking mind, rather than the ‘surrender of volition’ by the self”

        Yes, and Fuxi wasn’t talking about stretching ligaments, or penises.

        He was giving the metaphorical image of action period. Stripping away the ego and objects there is just action.

        1. Fred
          Fred April 5, 2015 at 7:18 am |

          Everyday trance:

          http://www.abouthypnosis.com/everyday-trance-states.html

          Wolinsky was talking about this stuff 30 to 40 years ago. It was absorbed into John Bradshaw’s work, and used in the treatment of flawed ego states/normal counselling.

      2. Shinchan Ohara
        Shinchan Ohara April 5, 2015 at 8:10 am |

        I’m a lesbian … trapped in a man’s body, who self identifies as a woman. And while I am lumbered with a tool I fantasize getting it blowed. Jeesh, you’re so narrow minded Fred.

        1. Fred
          Fred April 5, 2015 at 9:07 am |

          All minds are narrow
          Navigating fields farrow
          Filled with lark and sparrow
          Unplowed by harrow
          And the empty hoe hand

        2. mb
          mb April 5, 2015 at 9:13 am |

          But, but…there’s so many different kinds of lesbians trapped in different kinds of men’s bodies:

          http://www.reddit.com/r/AskMen/comments/1znezd/im_a_lesbian_trapped_in_a_mans_body_what_does/

        3. Fred
          Fred April 5, 2015 at 9:30 am |

          Sorry if I insulted you or caused any perturbation.

    2. anon 108
      anon 108 April 5, 2015 at 7:12 am |

      I should have stuck with “…drift on past off…” Like this:

      Zaf, me ol’ banana — I also thought ‘what is he on about?’ I considered saying so. But not knowing if you was serious or havin a larf, I left your enticing delivery to drift on past off (lest I be caught in the slips). Ya get me?

      Better rhythm. Opposes ‘on’ with ‘off’. Confirms the cricketing metaphor. Mind you, misses the faint ‘Walk on By’ resonance, but such a faint resonance… Possibly a smidgen prolix, too? Oh never mind.

      Retreats and trances.

      1. Zafu
        Zafu April 5, 2015 at 10:57 am |

        You’re a poet trapped in a Limey body.

        1. anon 108
          anon 108 April 5, 2015 at 12:05 pm |

          Ta.

          (Just in case my meaning was unclear: “he” in “what is he on about?” is you, not Andy.)

  27. Fred
    Fred April 5, 2015 at 9:25 am |
  28. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 5, 2015 at 11:23 am |

    “Yes, and Fuxi wasn’t talking about stretching ligaments, or penises.

    He was giving the metaphorical image of action period. Stripping away the ego and objects there is just action.”

    “When we let go of our minds and cast aside our views and understandings the Way will be actualized. One sage clarified True Mind (Reality) when he saw peach blossoms and another realized the Way when he heard the sound of tile hitting a bamboo. They attained the way through their bodies. Therefore, when we completely cast aside our thoughts and views and practice shikantaza, we will become intimate with the way… This is why I encourage you to practice zazen wholeheartedly.”

    (“Shobogenzo-zuimonki”, sayings recorded by Koun Ejo, translated by Shohaku Okumura, 2-26, pg 107-108, ©2004 Sotoshu Shumucho)

    “Don’t ever think that you can sit zazen! That’s a big mistake! Zazen sits zazen!”

    (Shunryu Suzuki)

    Quick, quick: did he mean “duck” as a noun, or “duck” as a verb?!

  29. Andy
    Andy April 6, 2015 at 1:52 am |

    FCWA Jr. wrote: Aren’t those key registers subjective?

    Yes and no on a sliding scale, which is why I took care to use overt qualification (eg “phrasing I would hear from”) to characterize (implicit qualification) my impressions of the evidence. And ostensibly for Malcolm, who shares a good deal of sociolingistic context with myself, hailing as he does from the same small country with access to very similar media and who has posted on this site often enough for my to apprehend this via style as well as content.

    My wife and I are going to trance out watching Wolves v Leeds today. I’m from Wolverhampton, but spent over a decade in West Yorkshire where my wife hails from and where Leeds is located. We’ve both bought Wolves scarfs (the team we’ll be supporting in the noisy seats behind the goal) so that this time, I might avoid having to uncomfortably explain why we’re seated in the right part of the stadium. I generally don’t have a Yorkshire accent like my wife, but I have picked up some very obvious linguistic artifacts which some ears pick up on, and which, to most people in the stand are highly suggestive of a Yorkshire dialect with some accentual cues. Last time round a few subjectivities identified the register but drew some false conclusions.

    1. Andy
      Andy April 6, 2015 at 2:07 am |

      “to most people in the stand are highly suggestive”: I could have written “to most people in the stand will be/could be/might be highly suggestive”, but for my purposes in this context, subjective certainty and objective rigour fart out the same apples.

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